I have sent the following article to the editor of the Dorset BKA quarterly magazine, “Honeycraft”.
ALL BEEKEEPING IS LOCAL
I have been asked by Norman Carreck if I can help a postgraduate student at LASI (the Laboratory of Apiculture and Social Insects, University of Sussex), Hasan Al Toufailia, with part of his PhD project. He is experimenting with oxalic acid treatments for the control of Varroa and is looking for groups of 15 hives in assorted parts of the country. I don’t have that many hives in one place but some of you might, or even groups of you in a local area, not necessarily in the same apiary.
The proposal, in brief, is that during the 6 months from September 2013 until February 2014 the beekeepers should, once a month, open their hives, take photographs of the sealed brood and send them to Hasan. He will then be able to do counts and compare locations.
If you’re interested in taking part, please contact Hasan via email at Ha214@sussex.ac.uk. He can then send you more details. I have a copy but it is too long to include here.
The reason for the brood counts is that Oxalic is far more effective when there is little or no brood in the colony. Hmmm…. I wonder whether it would be worth using oxalic in the Spring following making a shook swarm?
A thing not mentioned in the proposal is the strain of bee. Different strains may have different winter brooding habits. I recall that, when Prof. Ratnieks moved LASI from Sheffield a few years ago, he brought with him his Apis mellifera mellifera bees. In this area there have been so many imports of various strains from America, Italy, Greece, Denmark, Argentina etc that we have a right mongrel mix. I shall suggest to Norman that Hasan asks participants for samples of the bees to see whether there is anything useful to be learned.
I sent a copy of the article to Norman and he agrees that the race of the bees will likely have a considerable influence on their winter brood rearing habits and he will pass my suggestion to Hasan.